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Faculty stats on work-life balance eyed

By Clifton B. Parker on December 12, 2003 in University News

Why is managing children and an academic career so much more difficult for women than men? And what should colleges and universities do to encourage a family-friendly work environment?

They are hot topics in higher education and the subject of a recent session sponsored by the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Work-Life Balance for Ladder Faculty.

On Dec. 2, Marc Goulden, a research analyst at UC Berkeley, presented a wealth of survey findings to about 20 faculty members in the Memorial Union. The issue of work-life balance for UC Davis academics has drawn strong support from both Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw. The campus has launched or is considering several initiatives in this area, from building more childcare centers to more flexible schedules.

Goulden noted, "We'd like to build upon the UC reputation for family-friendly policies," adding that his work and family survey explored the tenure prospects for women and men nationally, at UC Davis and throughout the UC system.

Research highlights

Nationwide, family issues still create greater challenges for women than men, Goulden said, despite the "feminizing" trend in academia. In 1966 only 8 percent of doctoral recipients were female compared to about 44 percent today. Among the findings nationally:

  • For each year after receiving a doctorate, married men with children under 6 years are 50 percent more likely to enter a tenure-track position than married women with children under 6;
  • For each year after securing a tenure-track position, men are 20 percent more likely to achieve tenure than are women; and
  • Men are more apt to have new children than women in the years after they are hired as assistant professors.

Interestingly, Goulden said, men begin having children at higher rates than women once they land a tenure-track job because they believe their workplace situation is stable enough to have a family. For women, on the other hand, having children means more caregiving time at home, and that makes a robust academic career even more difficult.

"Women are less likely to achieve tenure than men," stated Goulden, adding that many end up in part-time academic jobs or opt out of higher education altogether.

UC Davis has 331 women and 996 men among its ladder-rank faculty members while UC Berkeley has 325 women and 987 men and UC San Diego has 173 women and 715 men, to name two other UC campuses. Regarding work-life balance, Goulden described UC Davis as one of the more progressive campuses in the UC system.

Life works at UC Davis

Cristina Gonzalez, senior advisor to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, said Goulden's analysis reaffirmed the strengths of UC Davis on work and family issues. Most of the UC Davis responses were on average slightly more favorable for female academics.

"This confirms anecdotal information we had about why many faculty members choose Davis over universities of equal or higher academic prestige," Gonzalez said.

Among the UC Davis findings:

  • 35 percent of female faculty said they had "fewer children than I wanted" compared to 16 percent of men;
  • 13 percent of women said they "stayed single because of my career" in contrast to 6 percent of men;
  • Female academics with children worked 52 hours per week compared to female professors without children who worked 60 hours per week;
  • Male academics with children worked on average 55 hours a week while men without children tallied 58 hours a week; and
  • Caregiving falls disproportionately on female academics, who devote 31 hours a week to men's 14 hours.

Goulden noted that more women (73 percent) than men (51 percent) reported making "sacrifices" or "slowing down" their careers in order to be good parents.

In academic writing and publishing, 45 percent of women said this career duty placed a "great deal of stress" on parenting while just 28 percent of men did. More women than men answered in the affirmative on a host of such "stress on parenting" questions, from attending seminars, colloquia, meetings, teaching to conducting fieldwork away from home.

Also, larger numbers of women than men reported they have been unable to consider job offers outside their current residence because of "family reasons."

Goulden highlighted the UC system's strides on work-life issues. In 2001, the university established a childcare facilities initiative to increase childcare options for campus employees. Earlier this year, the UC system revised existing family friendly policies, including those involving reduced work times and leaves. Also, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this year provided a two-year grant to assess current policies and propose new initiatives across the UC system -- dubbed the Family Friendly Package for UC Ladder-rank Faculty.

Goulden suggests that the UC system will enjoy a competitive advantage in recruiting and keeping faculty, especially women, if it considers adopting new policies such as offering flexible, part-time work options, expanding quality child care facilities, allowing reentry postdoctoral fellowships to encourage parents to return to the academy, and discounting "resume gaps" by applicants that may appear because of family caregiving issues, among other issues.

Gonzalez noted, "The implementation of the recommendations of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Work-Life Balance for Ladder faculty should establish us as clear national leaders in this area and greatly enhance our competitiveness."

For more information on those recommendations and other UC Davis efforts in faculty work-life balance, see